Tracking River Smallmouth

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Published on: Apr. 15, 2013

The smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) is one of Missouri’s most popular game fish. Biologists from the Missouri Department of Conservation, National Park Service, University of Missouri, and Missouri State University are conducting separate, but complementary, studies on the species in order to better manage its habitat and regulate harvest.

Smallmouths are found predominantly in cool, clear Ozark streams and large reservoirs in the Ozarks, but also sparingly in the upper Mississippi River and its principal prairie tributaries. They thrive in clear streams with silt-free rock or gravel bottoms near riffles away from the main current. Smallmouth bass are generally not found in the northwest or north central portion of the state or in the Bootheel.

With such a far-ranging study subject, citizen participation and a multiagency effort ensures a solid approach to studying this popular fish. Monitoring techniques like telemetry (using equipment to record and transmit data from a distance), and tagging will help biologists monitor fish movements and behavior. Three different types of tags were used in these studies: harvest-data tags (collected and reported by anglers), radio transmitter tags (monitored at intervals by scientists along the waterways), and temperature tags (recording tags collected by scientists). Not all tags were used in each study. Biologists use the information collected to help make management decisions for the species.

Department of Conservation Study

The Department of Conservation tagged smallmouth bass in the Castor, Black, and Current rivers, the North Fork of White River, and Courtois Creek, incorporating various sizes of waterways. Fisheries management biologists for the five streams affixed the external harvest tags to the wild-caught fish. Anglers were asked to report where and when they caught tagged fish and whether they were kept or released. They also provided measurements of the fish.

In a complimentary study, the Department also surveyed angler opinions by mail. This study gathered angler attitudes and opinions and estimated effort spent fishing for smallmouth bass in Missouri streams.

Jennifer Girondo, Department of Conservation fisheries management biologist and chair of the Smallmouth Bass Working Group, is coordinating the studies on smallmouth bass harvest rates and the angler mail survey. Girondo says the group is learning more about the fish’s life history and has gotten an updated depiction of smallmouth anglers. (Visit the Department’s Smallmouth Bass Management page at to view the full Smallmouth Bass and Rock Bass Fishing survey and more.)

“We need to ensure that our smallmouth

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